Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tis' the season to think before you drink.

I've been avoiding Starbucks for some time now. I used to be a bit of an addict, spending way too much money sucking down venti non-fat iced caramel macchiatos at the slightest provocation. But I'm married to an (extreme) coffee-snob, and pretty soon the lure of truly good coffee got ahold of me. (Seriously, a very recent roasting combined with fresh grinding and proper brewing techniques makes all the difference in the world. I had no idea. But it's amazing.) Starbucks just has no idea how to make a decent cup of actual coffee without drowning it in sugar, cream, and syrup. But even then, I still enjoyed the occasional frou-frou drink from the 'bucks until an unfortunate incident with an uber-dodgy creeper pushed me away forever. (Long story.) But now, after reading some alarming information, I've decided to start whole-heartedly boycotting Starbucks. And perhaps you should consider it too.

You see, Starbucks does not own a fleet of coffee-farming Oompa-Loompas that live in their factories and supply their products. Actual human coffee growers in places like Uganda do the dirty work. Salome Kafuluzi, who lives on a coffee farm with her thirteen children, says "We're broke. We're not happy. We're failing at everything. We can't buy essentials. We can't have meat, fish, [or] rice[...] We can't send the children to school." Because of a dangerous food-distribution bottleneck and a lack of subsistence options for farmers, farmers like these are literally earning 14 cents per kilo of raw coffee beans that they produce. At another step in the assembly line, one of the larger coffee exporters in Uganda is happy to be making a profit of $10 a ton, or 1 cent per kilo on what he exports. Farmers who are actually trying to increase their share of the final price of coffee are finding themselves facing the mighty opposition of the food industry. Ethiopian farmers recently applied to turn their signature coffee bean names - Sidamo, Harar, and Yirgacheffe - into trademarks, a move that might increase their share of the revenue by 25%. They were opposed almost instantly by Starbucks. Acting out of desperation and with a very limited number of ways to keep some food on their tables, these farmers are forced to keep churning out coffee beans to huge companies for an almost nonexistent profit. And too me, that's just not ok. I will not let my desire for a Christmassy peppermint mocha drive me to drop another enabling $5 into Starbucks' lap. They won't receive another dime from me.

So what can you do? Start by chuckin' the 'bucks. Seek out fair-trade coffee products, which means that the people who are growing those beans are being compensated fairly for their labor and products. Visit your local independent coffee shop and ask them questions about where and how their beans are grown. Do they support ethical coffee? If you live in the Columbia area, Peace Love and Rocky Roast is a great option (and right up the road from Starbucks!), and they make a darn tasty cuppa joe. When you buy coffee to brew at home, choose fair-trade. Locally, Indah Coffee Co. sells some of the tastiest beans around at the All Local Farmer's Market. There are delicious, ethical options that you can feel good about investing in all around you if you look for them.

I'm not trying to get all hippy-crunchy-granola on you, but I do think that we need to think before we vote with our dollars on the purchases we make everyday. What are your thoughts?

(All statistics from "Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System" by Raj Patel)

1 comment:

  1. Since I am too a 'coffee connoisseur', I have a very hard time with Starbucks' what they try to pass off as coffee.
    I am not allowed to drink coffee. I am a rebel and drink it anyway. I have stomach issues that say, "TOO MUCH ACID!" as it is, but grab a cup of coffee and I'm just asking for pain and wondering whether my body is really against me.
    So, that being said, when I do drink coffee... that better be a 'damn good cuppa joe.' I'm not saying I haven't had a Dunkin' Donuts coffee (and lately due to sleep deprivation its been quite a lot) but I have tweaked and fiddled with so much coffee couplings at a regular coffee shop that I'm used to it. I DO however know what a good cup of coffee (as someone who drinks straight from Colombia Colombian coffee) tastes like.
    Reading this, and knowing Kimmy as I do and knowing that if shes writing something, shes checked her facts and done her research... these facts are appalling.
    When I worked at a coffee shop (Yes, I was a barrista) we went through coffee upon coffee container and threw away a ton of it as well. If Starbucks brews coffee, they have to throw it away every 2 hours that that container is not consumed. You pay roughly .12 per ounce of coffee.
    Is it worth it? .12 doesn't seem like a lot, but the person they're buying it from, gets 1 cent per KILO. Look at that margin of profit!
    You can make 40 cups of coffee for every lb. of ground coffee beans you have. (
    So, (and I have a point... that correlates with Kimmy's) that poor person and family who is being paid next to nothing for the coffee they are producing is likely having their coffee thrown away in batches... and Starbucks doesn't blink about it because the profit they make is extraordinary.
    If they were paid fairly, Starbucks would have to reconsider their practices, and likely do more things to cut back on waste.
    Kimmy's right, with every dollar we spend we are voting for something being right. When we buy something from a corporation or company, we are in essence, supporting that company and saying 'Hey, I like what you do, keep doing it.'
    But ... I don't like what they're doing, and haven't for awhile.
    Just another place to say "no" to.